I turned on the radio the day after Halloween and heard Christmas music. How can my family focus on Advent when the culture skips it altogether?
Make one of your new liturgical year’s resolutions to celebrate the Advent season joyfully with your family.
Advent makes us grateful to be Catholic: It is full of beautiful, ancient traditions unique to our faith and is such an ideal time to instill a yearning for Christ in our kids. During Advent, we can experience with our children what it was like to be an Old Testament people, longing for a Savior. Seeing our children’s excitement and joy about Christmas can renew our own love for Jesus.
Here are five easy things we’ve done over the years in our home:
1. Put an Advent wreath on your dinner table. Don’t let this age-old tradition only be seen in Church on Sunday. The wreath symbolizes more than just the four weeks of Advent; the four candles can also represent the 4,000 years man was on earth before the Savior was born. The kids can take turns lighting and blowing out the candles. We usually say a short prayer like: "Come, Lord Jesus, be born in our hearts." Or lead a verse or two of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
2. Do active works of mercy to prepare for the Savior. Advent is a time of preparation, and we all need tangible ways to prepare spiritually for the birth of Baby Jesus. It’s got to be more than just shopping. You can put up a small manger somewhere in your home or outside, and each time any member of the family does an action out of love for Jesus, they can put a strand of hay in the crib. It’s fun to see the manger get fuller and fuller for Jesus as Christmas nears. But don’t put Jesus in until Christmas Eve! We’ve also seen some families do a similar version of this with paper chains that they then use to decorate the Christmas tree.
3. Don’t forget to talk about St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. This ties in some of the more secular traditions with the religious. Nicholas’ story is the origin of hanging stockings, after all. He was a real person, a bishop during one of the Roman persecutions, and his feast day is Dec. 6, at the start of Advent. There is a great animated version of the story of his life entitled Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa, which you can order online at EWTNReligiousCatalogue.com or by calling (800) 854-6316.
4. Exchange names and be "Advent Angels" for one another. Encourage the kids to pray for the person they’ve drawn and do secret good deeds for them throughout the season. On Christmas Eve, you can guess each other’s angels and exchange presents. This helps sibling rivalry become sibling revelry.
5. Do something spiritual for yourself. Can you add in a short time for prayer or Bible reading each morning during Advent or pray a daily Rosary? It just might turn into a great habit. Take advantage of any spiritual happenings in your parish; make it a priority to go. Pray that Christmas will bring you a new zeal and deeper love for Christ this year. We all need renewal.
The McDonalds are
coordinators of family life
and adult education
at St. Ignatius parish
in Mobile, Alabama.